Types of Hibiscus: Common Hibiscus Varieties with Their Flowers and Leaves (Pictures) – Identification Guide

Hibiscus is a genus of sun-loving shrubs and small trees with tropical-looking showy flowers in shades such as pink, bright red, pastel orange, white, and yellow. Hibiscus flowers are easily recognizable with their funnel shape, large papery petals, and contrasting colorful centers. Individual hibiscus flowers may only bloom for a day or two, but the bushes produce blossoms throughout the summer.

Choosing the right hibiscus for your front or backyard depends on your climate. Tropical hibiscus plants bloom throughout the year but only grow in USDA zones 9 through 12. Hardy hibiscus perennial shrubs produce huge, showy flowers and thrive in USDA zones 5 through 11.

Some tropical hibiscus varieties grow as annuals in temperate regions. Or you can grow the flowering heat-loving shrubs in containers and bring them indoors when the temperature dips below 50°F (10°C).

One thing in common with hardy and tropical hibiscus plants is their spectacular flowers in many different colors. Some of the most attractive hibiscus flowers have multi-colored petals.

To care for all hibiscus varieties, grow the garden landscaping shrubs in full sun, well-draining soil, and keep the ground moist.

There are many species of hibiscus and hundreds of cultivars. This article looks at some of the most common tropical and hardy hibiscus shrubs. The tropical hibiscus cultivars are generally Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) or Hawaiian hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus). Hardy hibiscus varieties are either rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) and scarlet rose mallow (Hibiscus coccineus).

Read on to find out about some of the most stunning types of hibiscus that you can grow in your front or backyard.

Hibiscus Flowers

tropical hibiscus flowers

Tropical hibiscus flowers come in a wide variety of colors and can be single or double blooms

Hibiscus flowers are trumpet-shaped, showy blooms that often have brightly-colored ruffled petals. The funnel-like flowers can grow between 3” and 10” (7.5 – 25 cm) across. A feature of most hibiscus flowers is the long colorful protruding stamens emerging from the flower’s center.

Flowers on hibiscus plants only last for one to three days. However, hibiscus flowering shrubs and trees produce blossoms throughout the growing season.

Hardy hibiscus cultivars bloom from mid-summer until fall. On the other hand, tropical hibiscus varieties can bloom throughout the year, right through mild winters.

hardy hibiscus flowers

Hardy hibiscus flowers are single blooms in colors of white, pink, purple or red and can be very large

Generally, flowers on hardy hibiscus shrubs are larger than the tropical varieties. But all hibiscus shrubs and small potted trees are known for their showy, tropical blooms in dazzling array of colors.

Hibiscus Leaves

hibiscus leaves

Leaves of tropical hibiscus (left) vs. leaves of hardy hibiscus (right). Tropical hibiscus plants tend to have darker glossier green leaves, whereas hardy hibiscus leaves are duller green and are usually heart-shaped

Hibiscus is a shrubby plant with dense leafy foliage. Tropical hibiscus is an evergreen shrub that thrives in warm, humid climates where the temperature never drops below 50°F (10°C). Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) doesn’t drop its leaves during mild winters. Generally, tropical hibiscus leaves are dark green with a glossy finish.

Hardy hibiscus is a group of flowering perennial shrubs with deciduous foliage. Hardy hibiscus leaves are dull green with serrated edges and are usually heart-shaped. Depending on the cultivar, the leaves can have deep lobes.

Like most deciduous plants, rose of Sharon and rose mallows drop their leaves in late fall. The shrubby plant dies back to the ground, and it’s essential to cut back the bare stems. When the weather warms in spring, hardy hibiscus has vigorous growth and soon becomes a leafy bush producing exotic flowers.

Varieties of Hibiscus – Common Types of Hibiscus (With Pictures and Identification)

Here is a brief overview of the different types of hibiscus:

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)—This hardy hibiscus is a fast-growing shrub with large trumpet-like flowers. Rose of Sharon has showy single or double blooms in red, blue, purple, white, and pink hues. The hardy Rose of Sharon grows between 8 and 12 ft. (2.4 – 3.6 m) tall and up to 10 ft. (3 m) wide.

Hibiscus syriacus

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) shrub

Rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)—Rose mallows are hardy hibiscus plants with enormous hollyhock-like flowers. The large pink or white flowers can grow up to 8” (20 cm) across. The hardy hibiscus perennial blooms continuously throughout the summer. Rose mallow grows between 3 and 7 ft. (1 – 2.1 m) tall and 2 to 4 ft. (0.6 – 1.2 m) wide.

hibiscus moscheutos

Rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) flowers

Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)—This tropical hibiscus has large, funnel-shaped flowers that come in a wide array of colors, such as pink, red, yellow, or peach flowers. The large, showy blooms with papery petals measure between 1.5” and 7” (4 – 18 cm) wide. Chinese tropical hibiscus grows between 8 and 16 ft (2.5 – 5 m) tall and up to 10 ft. (3 m) wide.

Tropical hibiscus pink flower

Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Hawaiian white hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus)—This Hawaiian hibiscus is an ornamental shrub with large fragrant white flowers. The brilliant white petals contrast with long red stamens emerging from the funnel flowers. These large shrubs grow between 10 and 30 ft. (3 – 9 m) tall and have a rounded growth around 20 ft. (6 m) wide.

Hibiscus arnottianus

Hawaiian white hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus)

Types of Hardy Hibiscus (Rose Mallow)

Rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) is a species of hardy hibiscus shrubs famous for their large tropical-looking blooms. Also called swamp rose mallow, cultivars from these hardy hibiscuses thrive in zones 5 through 9, with some even surviving in zone 4.

Related reading: How to care for hardy hibiscus shrubs.

Hibiscus ‘Berry Awesome’ (Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Berry Awesome’)

Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Berry Awesome’

Hibiscus ‘Berry Awesome’

The ‘Berry Awesome’ hibiscus is also called the ‘dinner plate hibiscus’ due to its massive 8-inch (20-cm) flowers. The disc-like flowers are a deep magenta-pink color with a crimson red eye in the center. Foliage on this small shrub is maple-like, dark green leaves.

Hibiscus ‘Berry Awesome’ grows between 3 and 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) and is 5 ft. (1.5 m) wide.

‘Berry Awesome’ rose mallow grows best in shrub borders. The rounded shrub blooms continually from mid-summer until fall. This shrubby hibiscus is also ideal for growing in containers.

Hibiscus ‘Berry Awesome’ flower: Gigantic round plate-like flowers with dark pink ruffled petals, a red center, and yellow fuzzy stamen.

Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Airbrush Effect’

Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Airbrush Effect’

The cold-hardy ‘Airbrush Effect’ hibiscus is a small shrub with delightful vibrant pink flowers. Like other hardy hibiscuses, the ‘Airbrush Effect’ has large flowers about the size of a dinner plate. Growing up to 8” (20 cm) across, the delicate blooms last about one day. However, the hibiscus is in constant bloom from mid-summer until the fall.

Hibiscus ‘Airbrush Effect’ grows between 3 and 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall with a similar spread. This cold-hardy hibiscus thrives in zones 4 through 9.

Hibiscus ‘Airbrush Effect’ flower: Beautiful pink petals with hints of white overlap each other to create large blooms that cover this shrub.

Hibiscus ‘Cherry Cheesecake’ (Rose Mallow)

Hibiscus ‘Cherry Cheesecake’

Hibiscus ‘Cherry Cheesecake’

‘Cherry Cheesecake’ hibiscus has spectacular white flowers with dramatic pink veins creating a raspberry whirl pattern. The large white and magenta saucer flowers contrast with the dark green foliage. Like all hardy rose mallows, the ‘Cherry Cheesecake’ cultivar thrives in full sun and is cold hardy to zone 4.

‘Cherry Cheesecake’ grows up to 5 ft. (1.5 m) tall and 6 ft. (1.8 m) wide. This hibiscus grows best in shrub borders, as a flowering hedge, or in containers.

Rose mallow ‘Cherry Cheesecake’ flowers: White hibiscus flowers with dark magenta veins radiating from a crimson red center.

Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus grandiflorus)

Hibiscus grandiflorus

Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus grandiflorus)

The swamp rose mallow has huge hollyhock-like pale pink flowers that grow between 6” and 10” (15 – 25 cm) across. This hibiscus cultivar is also called the large-flowered hibiscus. The Hibiscus grandiflorus is a prolific bloomer, with masses of new flowers appearing every day during summer. The swamp rose mallow has velvety, heart-shaped green leaves.

The velvet hardy mallow Hibiscus grandiflorus grows between 6 and 15 ft. (1.8 – 4.5 m) and is up to 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide.

Swamp rose mallow flowers: Trumpet-like light pink flowers with five delicate petals and a pale yellow stamen in its center.

Hardy Hibiscus ‘Luna Red’ (Hibiscus Moscheutos ‘Luna Red’)

Hibiscus Moscheutos ‘Luna Red

Hibiscus Moscheutos ‘Luna Red’

‘Luna Red’ hardy hibiscus shrubs have burgundy red, disc-like flowers. The large flowers grow between 6” and 8” (15 – 20 cm) in diameter. Even though each hibiscus flower lasts one or two days, the small compact shrub is in constant bloom from mid-summer until fall. The hibiscus leaves are ovate with slightly serrated margins.

Hibiscus ‘Luna Red’ grows in zones 5 through 9. This compact hibiscus only grows 3 ft. (1 m). The hardy hibiscus cultivar is perfect for small sunny gardens, foundation planting, or growing in pots. Being a type of swamp rose mallow, you can also plant this hibiscus near ponds or streams.

Hibiscus ‘Luna Red’ flowers: Five large red petals overlap to create a plate-like flower with a contrasting yellowish-white stamen.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

Hibiscus syriacus flowers

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) Flowers

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is another hardy perennial hibiscus species with flowers that look tropical. Rose of Sharon cultivars tend to grow taller than other hardy hibiscus varieties. However, they also produce showy displays of gorgeous flowers during summer and fall.

Hibiscus Syriacus ‘Aphrodite’

Hibiscus Syriacus ‘Aphrodite’

Hibiscus Syriacus ‘Aphrodite’

Rose of Sharon ‘Aphrodite’ has beautiful vase-shaped, pink ruffled flowers with a bright red center and conspicuous white stamen. The pink tropical-looking flowers contrast with the hibiscus leaves that are ovate shaped with slightly lobed margins. ‘Aphrodite’ hibiscus flowers are 4” (10 cm) across.

‘Aphrodite’ Rose of Sharon grows between 8 and 12 ft. (2.4 – 3.6 m) tall and up to 10 ft. (3 m) wide. This beautiful hibiscus grows best at the back of flower beds, foundation planting, or as a deciduous flowering privacy screen.

Rose of Sharon ‘Aphrodite’ flowers: Pink flowers with red center in the shape of a cup with a ruffled appearance.

Hibiscus Syriacus ‘White Chiffon’

Hibiscus Syriacus ‘White Chiffon’

Hibiscus Syriacus ‘White Chiffon’

Rose of Sharon ‘White Chiffon’ has multitudes of brilliant white double flowers with white stamens. If you are looking for an easy-to-grow, stunning shrub with white blooms, then ‘White Chiffon’ hibiscus is a great choice. The white hibiscus flowers appear continuously from summer until fall. Hibiscus leaves are ovate with lobed margins.

‘White Chiffon’ rose of Sharon has a rounded habit and grows 8 to 12 ft. (2.4 – 3.6 m) tall and up to 6 ft. (1.8 m) wide. This hibiscus variety is ideal for colorful shrub borders and flowering hedges.

Rose of Sharon ‘White Chiffon’ flowers: The snow-white crinkled flowers are 4” (10 cm) across, and two rows of five petals make these hibiscus blooms exceptionally showy.

Rose of Sharon ‘Oiseau Bleu’ (Hibiscus syriacus ‘Oiseau Bleu’)

Hibiscus syriacus ‘Oiseau Bleu’

Hibiscus syriacus ‘Oiseau Bleu’

Also called the ‘Blue Bird’ rose of Sharon, this hibiscus cultivar has lilac or purple trumpet-shaped flowers. Oiseau Bleu hibiscus has stunning flowers with contrasting dark burgundy veins and a dark cherry red center with a conical white stamen. The ‘Blue Bird’ hibiscus is a long-blooming variety with blooms that last until the first frost.

Hibiscus ‘Oiseau Bleu’ grows between 6 and 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.4 m) tall and is 6 ft. (1.8 m) wide. The attractive leafy foliage with its blue flowers is ideal as a deciduous hedge, foundation planting, or to grow at the back of a mixed bed.

Rose of Sharon ‘Oiseau Bleu’ flowers: The relatively small lilac funnel-shaped flowers have attractive red veins and a reddish-purple center.

Tropical Hibiscus Varieties 

The most common tropical hibiscus cultivars are from the species Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. These spectacular flowering shrubs only grow in zones 10 through 12, with a few suitable for zone 9. Generally, it’s harder to care for tropical hibiscus as they require constant moisture to keep blooming throughout the year.

Related reading: How to care for tropical hibiscus shrubs.

Chinese Hibiscus ‘Brilliant’ (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Brilliant’)

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Brilliant’

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Brilliant’

The hibiscus evergreen cultivar ‘Brilliant’ has shiny red flowers with five large, ruffled petals that bend backward. The funnel-like hibiscus flowers have long conspicuous red and yellow stamens protruding from the center. With the right care, the Chinese hibiscus ‘Brilliant’ flowers throughout the year.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Brilliant’ grows between 8 and 10 ft. (2.4 – 3 m) tall.

Tropical hibiscus ‘Brilliant’ flowers: Bright, cardinal-red flowers that are 6” (15 cm) across blooming continuously all year long.

Tropical Hibiscus ‘Red Dragon’ (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Red Dragon’)

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Red Dragon’

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Red Dragon’

The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Red Dragon’ has stunning orangey-red double flowers contrasting with the shiny evergreen foliage. With its bold colors, this tropical hibiscus is an outstanding specimen for growing in tropical gardens as a specimen bush, foundation planting, or evergreen flowering hedge.

The ‘Red Dragon’ hibiscus has moderate to fast growth and thrives in zones 10 and 11. The shrubby plant grows between 6 and 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.4 m) tall and 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide.

Tropical Hibiscus ‘Red Dragon’ flowers: Scarlet-red double flowers with ruffled petals give these flowers a showy, tropical look.

Hibiscus ‘Eye of Kali’ (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Eye of Kali’)

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Eye of Kali’

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Eye of Kali’

The tropical hibiscus ‘Eye of Kali’ is a compact hibiscus with exotic yellow, pink, and red flowers. The large five crinkled orangey-yellow petals fan out to create a large flower. The stunning feature of the ‘Eye of Kali’ is the distinctive pink and red eye in the flower’s center. The ‘Eye of Kali’ hibiscus also has showy yellow stamen sticking out from its center.

Hibiscus ‘Eye of Kali’ grows 4 to 6 ft (1.2 – 1.8 m) high. Although you can grow this tropical shrub in the ground, it grows best in containers as a balcony or patio plant.

Tropical hibiscus ‘Eye of Kali’ flowers: These stunning hibiscus flowers are 6” to 8” (15 – 20 cm) across with attractive pastel pink, orange, and yellow colors.

Tropical Hibiscus ‘El Capitolio (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘El Capitolio’)

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘El Capitolio’

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘El Capitolio’

The ‘El Capitolio’ hibiscus is a tropical shrub with magnificent dusty orange and red flowers. The outstanding feature of ‘El Capitolio’ flowers is its large, showy stamens. The ends of the light pink stamen have small delicate petals that look like a second flower. This tropical hibiscus foliage is made from velvety evergreen leaves.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘El Capitolio’ grows between 6 and 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.4 m) and thrives in zones 9 and 10 when growing in warm sunshine.

Tropical hibiscus ‘El Capitolio’ flowers: The colors of these tropical hibiscus flowers are apricot and red. Look for the stunning large stamen protruding from the flower’s center.

Hawaiian Hibiscus 

Tropical Hawaiian hibiscus plants consist of seven hibiscus species native to Hawaii. Depending on the species, Hawaiian hibiscus cultivars can have white, yellow, red, orange or pink flowers. Hawaiian hibiscus species grow in USDA zones 9 through 11.

Hawaiian White Hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus)

Hawaiian White Hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus)

Small shrubby tree of Hibiscus arnottianus and white flower

The Hibiscus arnottianus is the most common tropical hibiscus outside of Hawaii. The fragrant flowers are made from brilliant white, elongated petals in the shape of a pinwheel. Adding to its beauty, a conspicuous pinkish-red stamen protrudes from the center of the hibiscus flowers. The Hawaiian white hibiscus flowers are 4” (10 cm) in diameter.

The Hawaiian white hibiscus is a large evergreen shrub or small tree that grows between 15 and 30 ft. (4.5 – 9 m) tall and 25 ft. wide (7.5 m). You can prune the shrubby bush to create a flowering privacy screen or grow the shrub in pots on a patio or deck.

Hawaiian white hibiscus flowers: This tropical hibiscus has stunning white, star-shaped flowers. The long red stamens with their pink to orange anthers contrast with the snow-white petals to give the flowers a truly tropical look.

Hibiscus Trees

hibiscus tree

Left image: braided tropical Chinese hibiscus tree. Right: hardy hibiscus rose of Sharon tree

Hibiscus trees are usually the tropical Chinese hibiscus tree (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) or the rose of Sharon hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus). The stunning feature of hibiscus trees is their masses of tropical blooms that cover the crown in color.

The rose of Sharon beautiful flowering shrubs can be trained to grow as small trees with a single trunk and have a rounded canopy of compact foliage.

Chinese hibiscus trees are usually sold as braided tropical trees in pots. The tree trunk has at least three stems that are intertwined. As with all hibiscus varieties, hibiscus trees produce large, funnel-shaped flowers in various vibrant and pastel colors.

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